Ryan Villopoto (above) will aim for a final win before the season finale in Las Vegas. James Stewart (bottom, left) and Chad Reed (bottom, right) face an uphill battle but are more than capable of upsetting RV.
The penultimate round of the 2011 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship has arrived. Four riders locked in a death grip, unable to make even the slightest mistake, will enter Salt Lake City’s Rice-Eccles Stadium with the weight of the championship on their minds. Last year the title was neatly wrapped-up for Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey by Round 16. This year, however, palpable tension will fill the air in the Beehive State as the sun begins to set on what has been a wildly entertaining season.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto is in the most favorable position of the bunch, but it’s not saying much. Only six points ahead of his competition, RV has born witness to one of his greatest foes, San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart, claiming wins in the last two rounds. Villopoto has a huge monkey to get off his back after two injury-filled seasons, and nothing short of the 2011 SX title will be acceptable for him.
“I know what it takes to win and I know that I can win the championship,” said Villopoto at the start of the 2011 season. “I’ve just had some really bad luck the last two seasons, but I’m ready to turn things around.”
However, Stewart’s turnaround in the last two races has given RV cause for worry. The 25-year-old has unquestionably been the fastest rider of the field. Stewart has matched Villopoto win for win this season with five victories, and he will have the chance to secure his third win in a row for the first time this year. But Stewart’s record of coming through in a clutch has been spotty at best. If he can hold it together it will make for one of the most important accomplishments of his career.
“I went into last weekend’s break with the momentum, and I look forward to coming out swinging heading into Salt Lake City this Saturday,” said Stewart.
Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey had difficulties in Seattle but is only seven points behind RV heading to Salt Lake.
TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed is only six points adrift of Villopoto. For the past three rounds the Aussie has hit major roadblocks which have prevented him from competing for race wins. During the last round in Seattle Reed went over the bars while in the runner-up position, giving second to Geico Honda’s Kevin Windham. From here on out the two-time champ has to be hard on the gas and flawless if he’s to secure the crown.
“The championship is on the line and it’s time to go for it,” Reed said. “I am going to give it everything I have to win this year.”
Dungey dug a small hole in Seattle. After posting 11 podium finishes so far in the 2011 season, Dungey collected his second-worst finish of the series in fifth after two crashes in the main. Currently seven points behind Villopoto, Dungey can’t afford any more mistakes despite his consistent podium results.
The sun may be setting for most riders in the series, but for Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer it’s giving way to the beginning of his racing season. More than nine months have elapsed since his last race at Washougal in ’10, his SX season being prematurely brought to a close with a broken arm during pre-season testing. While removed from the SX championship picture for 2011, Weimer is aiming for a top-five result in Salt Lake as he prepares for the start of the outdoor season.
After being away from the racing scene for nine months Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer will return in Salt Lake.
“I grew up like two hours from Salt Lake, so if there’s a home race for me that’s it,” said Weimer. “I have a lot of friends and a lot of family that go there. At the end of the day though, I just want to race.”
The West Coast Lites series will continue to push toward its finish by taking on Salt Lake City. Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle took over the standings in Seattle by grabbing his fifth podium finish of the season. The 21-year-old capitalized on the injuries of Pro Circuit teammate, Josh Hansen, to jump two points ahead. Now that Hansen is struggling with his injured hand, Tickle holds the clear advantage in the final two races of the season.
But Hansen is far from letting this season slip through his grasp. Recent twitter posts reveal Hansen’s hand is up to 80% which, he concludes, is good enough to win.
Tickle may have a slight lead in the series, but he isn’t out of the woods yet. Geico Powersports Honda’s Eli Tomac is only seven points behind, and with fours podiums and a win to his name this year, the 18-year-old still stands an excellent shot at snatching his first title.